(From National Centre for Writing. Link to the complete post given below)
I’ve just spent the last few days in Singapore (enjoying temperatures very similar to back home in Norwich) attending a prize ceremony, visiting other literature organisations, catching up with writers, translators and publishers, reading Singaporean literature and visiting art exhibitions. Throughout the week, I noticed a theme emerging – how writers and artists combat attempts to erase histories that don’t fit in mainstream narratives.
On Monday 6th August we were proud to give the 2018 Singapore Literature Prize (English fiction) to State of Emergency, by Jeremy Tiang, published by Epigram Books. His collection of short stories, It Never Rains on National Day, was shortlisted for the 2016 Singapore Literature Prize. An eminent Chinese-English literary translator, Jeremy Tiang is the mentor for the NCW Tilted Axis Mentorship for emerging translators.
The Singapore Literature Prize is organised by the Singapore Book Council, which receives funding from the National Arts Council. Most of the newspaper reports noted that it was the second time in a row that the Singapore Literature Prize has gone to a novel that challenges the established narratives of Singapore. In 2016 the prize was awarded to the best-selling graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, a retelling of Singapore’s political history through the eyes of a fictional artist, by Sonny Liew, also published by Epigram. Both books had their grants withdrawn by the National Arts Council, but went on to be published to wide acclaim.
State of Emergency, Jeremy Tiang’s beautifully written first novel, highlights a lesser known side of Singaporean history, exploring the leftist movements and political detentions in Malaysia and Singapore from the 1940s onwards, through the stories and memories of an extended family. As fellow judge Kenny Chan noted, the novel is epic in scope yet intimate in its depiction of the characters.